A Q&A about me, conducted by me.
So this is weird, right?
A self Q&A – like an interior monologue, isn’t it?
Yeah, real writerly and wanky.
At least I’m putting my English degree to some use.
Indeed. So I suppose I should ask you some questions about your blog…
What is ‘Iainsights’? What does it mean?
Iainsights is a play on words, it’s a combination of my name, Iain, and the word insights. This is an opinion based blog and I’ve always been prone to puns based on my name, like my instagram “Iain_stagram”. My name just fits with words and “Iainsights” felt organic to what this blog is.
Not great for SEO though I imagine?
Yeah, it’s not exactly an everyday word. But then neither were Facebook or Nike or Beyoncé, you know?
Those are ambitious brands to put yourself alongside.
[laughs] I suppose they are.
How long have you been blogging?
Well, Iainsights has been going since January 2018. I’ve had other blogs for various purposes on and off, but this is the first one I’ve promoted with people I actually know and I *think* this is the longest running one I’ve had.
Where did the idea for Iainsights come from? What is its purpose?
I’ve just wanted to express my opinions on things, you know? I think I’ve got a very commercial taste, and I feel like there’s so much music out there that I listen to and want to recommend to people because they’ll actually like it, but who actually listens to other people’s music reccommendations? You usually get a “I’ll check out out later” and later almost always means never. The actual format of the blog I stole from one of my blogging idols, Grace Medford (@oneofthosefaces on twitter). She did a New Music Friday blog for 18 months and I loved her weekly roundup format.
So you stole it?
Yeah. She doesn’t do it in the same format anymore though. It’s sad because she’s much better at writing about music than I am and you should check out her blog and just follow her everywhere because she’s great at what she does, but I can see the appeal of stopping because trying to find great new songs every week isn’t easy.
I’ll bet. There is a lot of trash music out there, isn’t there?
Yes and no. I think that you have to remember that most music actually isn’t for you. The old format for my blog I would sit down with 30 pre-selected song and review every single one. I’d say that 75 per cent of the reviews were negative, 20 per cent were half-hearted praise, and the other 5 per cent were genuine glowing recommendation. Just because I don’t like the new songs by someone like Calvin Harris or Kanye West or The Chainsmokers doesn’t make them bad, they’re just not written with someone like me in mind. Everyone needs music and it’s easy to write off something as derivative or simple in subject matter because it’s not relevant to you anymore, but there is surely some kid out there who is learning about themself and about the world because of the lyrics in a song.
That’s very diplomatic of you. Does that mean you think there is no bad music?
I mean, all music serves a purpose, but the purpose can be negative. You can write a song which is homophobic or fundamentally misogynistic, and I think that makes can make it bad. But a lyrically problematic song can still be melodically nice or have a good flow, it’s not an easy thing to say with real objectivity. Look at ‘Blurred Lines’ – that was a thematic nightmare but how long did it spend at number one?
I’ll rephrase a little then, what music don’t like?
I like pretty much all genres to an extent, it’s more a song’s subject matter that I would object to. I don’t like music that tries too hard, politically charged lyrics don’t sit well with me because it doesn’t seem as organic. That said, it definitely can work – ‘Love it if we made it’ by the 1975 is all about the state of things and it has some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in recent memory. I hope one day I get to be at a live show where the entire stadium is singing “fucking in a car” and “poison me daddy”.
What do you mean by “you like all genres to an extent”?
Just that I have a commercial taste in music. Most of the songs on my playlists and roundups have been released as singles because they’re the most commercially viable, the ones that might make you listen to an artists album. I find listening to an album a bit of a chore if I’m honest. So many album tracks by my so-called faves pass me by because I don’t have the energy to listen to one voice for 45 minutes straight. I put that down to our consumerist culture.
But albums are great!
Yeah, don’t get me wrong, some albums are great. I have deep attachment to some albums and I know their tracklists off-by-heart. I just really have to force myself to listen to a new album and pay attention for the whole thing. I think it’s because so many albums are for the artist’s fans rather than the general masses. They’re for people who love them and want to listen to them for 45 minutes to an hour without pause. I’ve given up trying to do album reviews for the time being because I don’t think I consume them properly.
Fair. Let’s talk a little about your review process. How do you choose the songs for each week?
The song selection process has always been the same. I go through Spotify’s New Music Friday UK and AU/NZ playlists and cherry pick by listening to short clips from every single track. I also look at my Release Radar, plus a couple of other sites online that list all the new music out in case there is anything I missed. That usually gives me about 30 tracks to play through.
What comes next?
When I was doing the 5to5 format I would literally listen to all of them and write a short paragraph or even just a sentence about each. That was exhausting but I managed to do it for a good 6 months before I dropped the ball. I used to aim for a Friday post but I learned pretty quick that it was an unrealistic goal. Now I cut it down just to songs I like.
What does the cutting down process entail?
I think you can get a pretty good sense of a song for the first minute of it. I usually give it the first verse and the chorus before I decide if I’ll listen to the whole thing. If it grabs me, I’ll let it play out. If not, it gets cut.
That sounds brutal.
I guess. It’d be a long job otherwise.
So you review all the ones that make the cut?
Well, I try to get it down to around ten songs a week now and sometimes there are too many and I have to choose ones to cut. I think that ten is a reasonable number of songs to recommend every week, more than that is excessive and who has the time? So I listen through the songs that make it past the first play a couple of times and whittle it down. I’m sure I’m missing some great songs but I’m only one man, I can only try.
And then you write the reviews?
Yeah. I try and have the list cut down by Saturday morning so I can listen to all the songs properly and give them their due over the weekend so when I sit down on a Monday morning I have something more considered to say about them.
How many songs do you actually keep in your playlists after your posts?
It varies. Like I say, I think I have a good ear for commercial music so there is some stuff on the roundups that I wouldn’t personally playlist, but I know people who would. There’s usually at least 3 or 4 that make it into my regular playlists. Once you listen to a song ten times it tends either to stick with you or disappear.
I’ll bet. Ok, we’re almost done here. What is your overall goal for this blog?
Mostly, I just want to get better at writing about music. I’m not great with the jargon but I think if I stick with it I’ll get there. I’m not looking for a job in it per se, music is just one of my passions and I like to talk about it. If people read my blogs and get something out of it then great! If not, then hey, I’m still finding loads of great new songs I might miss otherwise. I love hearing new music and this is an engaged way to do it and think about it.
Happy to hear you’re getting something out of it, I truly wish you all the best with it.
Where else can people find you?
There should be links to my socials on the site somewhere, but for my main accounts its @iainhoey on twitter and @iain_stagram on instagram. If you want to follow my spam accounts where I’m trying to get a little more promo then it’s @iainsights on both. I also have a Facebook page @iainsights, and a newsletter which there’s a little subscribe tab for up top. You only really need to get me on one of them because I update them all with the same thing, but if you feel like boosting my presence then please do!
Please do. Thanks for the chat Iain, speak soon!
Catch you later.
This was weird, huh?